I’m quite a big fan of Xi Zhi Hao pu-erh. But even my infatuate eyes cannot ignore the fact that the production of San Ho Tang changes over the time. I believe, the change has two reasons.
First is the increase of mao cha and pu-erh prices in late 2006 and early 2007. The increasing demand for good pu-erh leads to over harvesting of tea trees, faking and making good mao cha scare. So if a tea producer wanted to continue in making premium teas, he has to pay premium prices. The price of average and bad beengs may decrease, but I’m afraid, that we will pay for good pu-erh more and more each year.
The second motive of change could be the expanded Xi Zhi Hao offering. Lets have a look:
2005 – three different teas were produced (Lao Ban Zhan, You Le Remote Mountain, Nan Nuo Purple Tips)
2006 – thirteen different teas were produced (Nan Nuo “Ban Po Lao Zhai”, 6-Famous-Mountain Blend, Lao Ban Zhan “Yin” and “Yan”, BuLang “Guang Bieh Shin Zhai”, Ban Zhan Natural Habitat, Yi Wu Cha Hwang, You Le Remote Mountain, 3-year Anniversary Cake (Lao Ban Zhan, Autumn), Classic Yi Wu (Autumn), 5 Most Famous Remote Mountain Set (Autumn), "Meng Hai Nu Er Zhuan")
2007 – at least eighteen different teas (Huang Shan Lin “Hwang Hwa (Illusion)”, very limited, Huang Shan Lin, Yi Wu Cha Hwang, Yuan Shi Lin, Shan-Pin Ancient Tree, Ji-Pin Ancient Trees, Dragon and Phoenix, 7542, 8582, Autumn “Da Xue Shan”, Autumn “Pu Zheng Yuan Cha”, "Xi Shang Mei Shao", "Yi Wu Cha Hwang", Jing Gu "Nu Er Cha", "Din Jin Nu Er", "Ku Zhu Shan Ji Pin Gu Shu", "Xue Shan Chuen Lu", "Yi Wu Cha Hwang minibeeng")
Source : HouDe
Increased production can lead to lower quality and as such it can destroy the reputation of company. Maybe focusing in fewer brands can help? I'm not sure.
But my today's tea is from the early 2006 when the Xi Zhi Hao was name still highly priced among pu-erh connoisseurs. The beeng is stone molded, airy and not too tight, that good for aging and for loosening the leaves, too. Leaves are still quite green, being dry stored with me for a year or so. They emit rich woody and flowery aroma.
The liquor is light amber, sweet with no sign of smokiness. The tea is thirst-quenching, powerful and complex, yet delicate enough. The aftertaste is slightly acidic, nearly a fruity and lasts very long, I can still feel the tea at my tongue, even after an hour or so.
Maybe Xi Zhi Hao could produce tea like this one. Well, we will see the 2008 crop.